While a conventional generator and an inverter generator are similar in that they both involve the production of electricity, there are differences between the two. Simply put, an inverter generator delivers a smooth, constant flow of AC power, whereas a conventional generator will throttle up and down to produce enough power to meet loan demand. With so many modern day appliances using sensitive microprocessors (smart phones,TV’s, kitchen appliances, stereos, etc.), having a smooth and steady source of power becomes very important. Some refer to this smooth, steady flow of electricity as “clean” power and without it, many appliances that contain microprocessors can be damaged. For this reason, many consumers opt for inverter generators over conventional generators. Note that inverter generators offer other advantages over conventional units including: smaller size, less weight, greater fuel efficiency and quiet operation. The main drawbacks of inverter generators are higher price and a lower range of power generating capability.
How Does An Inverter Generator Work?
The answer to this question can get a bit technical but we’ll do our best to keep it simple. An inverter generator takes AC electricity produced by the engine, converts it to DC electricity via a rectifier. Capacitors then “smooth” the electricity out and the DC electricity is then “inverted” back into clean AC electricity, similar to what is available at an electrical outlet. Inverter technology used in generators is fairly new and was developed to work with new generation appliances that contain sensitive microprocessors (smart phones, large screen TV’s, etc.). The risk of damage to these appliances is lessened greatly by the constant and smooth flow of electricity from an inverter generator.
What Is The Difference Between A Generator and an Inverter?
To answer this question, some background may be helpful.
There are two basic kinds of generators, portable and permanent standby. Portable generators are smaller units that can be wheeled to locations outside of your home, camping ground, tailgate or RV. Powered by gasoline, portable units are designed to provide power to a select number of appliances (as opposed to your entire home) and must be started manually.
Permanent standby generators are larger systems placed on a pad outside the home or business, powered by a fixed energy source such as a natural gas line, diesel fuel tank or LP gas tank. These systems can immediately detect a power loss from the grid and automatically begin delivering electricity to your entire home or business.
In recent years, a new type of portable generator has been developed that is more “friendly” to consumer electronics products built with microprocessors (TV’s, cell phones, microwave ovens, etc.). These newer generators are called portable inverter generators or “inverters” for short. So, if you are shopping for a portable generator, you will be choosing from generators with inverter technology and generators without inverter technology. They both produce power but deliver it a bit differently.
A portable inverter generator (with inverter technology) takes raw engine-generated power from the alternator, “cleans” it to produce a pure, smooth sine wave that is comparable to what you receive from your AC outlet. This is a much better solution for those wanting to power more sensitive modern microprocessor-based devices such as smartphones, laptops, TV’s or microwave ovens. While inverter generators tend to be more costly, they are “friendly” to appliances with microprocessors and are smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient and operate at a lower decibel level than traditional portable generators.
Portable generators (without inverter technology) are the most widely used generators today. Their motor runs at a constant speed and produces electricity through an alternator. While the electricity produced by these units works just fine for less “sophisticated” appliances such as lights, simple power tools or space heaters, it may not be the best power source for microprocessor-based appliances. Standard portable generators are generally less expensive than inverter units, can have greater peak power generation capability and come in a wider range of sizes. However, in addition to the appliance suitability issue, they are not as fuel efficient as inverter generators and tend to be heavier and bulkier.
What is the Best Inverter Generator for an RV?
What is the best inverter generator to use with your RV? That will depend on a number of important factors, including: your budget, peak load capacity, operating costs, weight, storage space and warranty protection. There are a quite a few comparative surveys available on the internet, conducted by popular ratings services (Consumer Reports), consumer blogs (Healthy Handyman, Wise Pick) and trade websites (Generator Mag.com). Looking at a number of these reviews, here are some units offered by leading manufacturers that score well across key metrics of price, weight, capacity, noise and operating cost:
1) Honda EU20001. Durable construction, fuel economy, wattage capacity, quiet, light weight, warranty.
2) WEN 56200i. Price, wattage capacity, low operating cost.
3) Champion 4000-WRV. Power, heavy load capacity, quiet, warranty.
4) Generac 7117 GP2200i. Compact, construction, quiet, fuel economy.
5) Westinghouse WH2200iXLT. Compact, lightweight, quiet operation.
6) Yamaha EF-2000is v2. Light, fuel efficient, quiet.
7) Kohler Pro 2.0is. Medium sized unit, wattage capacity
It goes without saying that your RV experience can be enhanced with the selection of a reliable inverter generator that best fits your needs. An inverter generator may cost more than a standard generator but the benefits of inverter technology cannot be overlooked: reliable power for sophisticated electronics devices, smaller form factor, lighter weight, fuel economy and quiet operation.
What Are The Advantages of an Inverter Generator?
Your decision between purchasing a standard portable generator or a portable inverter generator will depend on your individual circumstances and needs. First, the bad news: inverter generators cost more than standard portable generators and generally have less maximum power output capability. Now for the good news! Inverter generators are superior to standard generators in a number of key areas:
*Smaller form factor and lighter weight–easier to store and transport.
*Delivery of “clean” AC power that is suitable for sensitive electronic devices
*Parallel operation potential. Some inverter units can be linked with each other to double your power capacity. (This is not possible with standard portable units).
Why Are Inverter Generators So Expensive?
While portable inverter generators are more expensive than standard portable units, remember that in many respects, they are superior products. Among the benefits of inverter units are fuel efficiency, smaller form factor, lighter weight, quiet operation and delivery of “cleaner” power suitable for sensitive electronic devices. All of these benefits come from design and construction that is a bit more complex (and costly) compared to standard units. And with the key advantage of an inverter generator being the delivery of “clean” power to sensitive electronics devices, remember that this capability comes about as a result of advanced electronic circuitry and high tech magnets. Components such as these cost more and contribute to the higher sales price.
It all boils down to deciding what features are important to you and whether the added cost of inverter technology is worth it to you. Many consumers have weighted the benefits versus the additional cost and have concluded that an inverter generator is worth the price.